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Grigory Pasko: Russian Justice Needs More than Principles

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Thanks to the creative mind of the writer Rudyard Kipling ,once upon a time there lived the python Kaa. Somewhere in the jungles this was. Kaa was large and frightful. He could hypnotize the Bandar-log monkeys with just his hissing. The Bandar-logs rustled like leaves in the wind in response, lightly shaking and silently walking right into the jaws of the insatiable Kaa.

In the year 2009, while the Council of Judges of Russia was examining a new redaction of the Code of Judicial Ethics, Constitutional Court judge Anatoly Kononov declared about laying down authority [announced his retirement–Trans.] from 1 January of the year 2010. Serving as the motive was his interview, in which the judge recounted about how they had forced another member of the Constitutional Court, Vladimir Yaroslavtsev, to abandon the Council of Judges after a public criticism of the Russian court system.

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On 31 August, judge Yaroslavtsev divulged a frightful state secret in an interview to the Spanishnewspaper El Pais: “In Russia rulethe organs of security, like in Soviet times“. And further: «Judicialpower in Russia over the time of the presidency of Vladimir Putin andhis successor Dmitry Medvedev has transformed into an instrument in theservice of the executive power“, “the legislative organs areparalyzed“, “the center of the adoption of decisions is found in theadministration of the president“.

How did the matter end? They dismissed the judges, like they hadearlier dismissed the judges Sergey Pashin,and many others. The Code they will no doubt adopt, they will reportthat they have updated-modernized-reformed themselves… (This is nowonce again, how many times already, a fashionable topic in the speechesof the Russian leadership). And – that’s it. We will drive right pastthis – judicial – bus stop too without stopping. As we have alreadydriven past the police one, the prison one… We keep driving further on- into the happy shining future with today’s power forever.

So what about the new Code? Why does it need changing? Turns out, withthe objective of “elevating the trust of society in the judicialsystem, ensuring the competence, independence and impartiality ofcourts as a condition of due dispensation of justice”. That is, untilnow the trust of the people, competence and independence were justfair-to-middling?

It gladdens, of course, that the elaborators of the new Code intend tomake use of a multitude of international documents. Among them are theBangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct (anannex to a resolution of the Economic and Social Council of the UNO(ECOSOC) of 27 June of the year 2006).

I have read these principles. They’re good. But what have theyto do with our Russian reality? It clearly won’t jibe with theseprinciples.

In particular, the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct proceedfrom such an understanding of «independence, impartiality, honesty andprobity, compliance with established standards of competence and goodfaith, under which the following of high standards of judicial conductis regarded in the capacity of a means of reinforcing public confidencein the judiciary, which is fundamental to the maintenance of judicialindependence (item 1.6). (All the principles are here).

Have we got the trust of the people in judges? This is a rhetoricalquestion, as you understand. (By the way, about some judges one canread here).

Ah, but trust in “excommunicated” judges – that certainly exists.

What I’m saying is that the Code is not going to save Russian justice,which has discredited itself time and again. The body of judges in itsmajority – this is my conviction, based on my own experience ofinteracting with them in courts many a time – is hopelessly sick andunfit for the dispensation of judicial justice. It is, in the mostdirect sense, grovelingly dependent on the executive power. And itsultimate death-knell will be the idea of the Putinite times – tointroduce into this body former chekists and procurators.

Putin and Medvedev don’t resemble the large and frightful Kaa in anyway – they’re too small. So why do many judges, like the Bandar-log,crawl to the hissing of the powers, get hypnotized to the point oflosing sense of reality?

Not for them the Bangalore Principles; no, they are adherents of the Bandar-log principles…

Image source.